J and I spent a long weekend in Berlin last year as a jumping off point to a multi-European city trip I had to make for work. It was magical. We explored different neighborhoods, visited awesome museums, climbed to the top of various tall buildings, gawked at UNESCO-listed modern architecture, learned so much more than we ever knew about the Berlin Wall, and – of course – we ate delicious food.
One meal was particularly memorable, partly because it was delicious, and partly because it took place in the beautiful Prater Garten beer garden, a sprawling green area with picnic tables, great beer and food, and happy people. We spent the afternoon here drinking delicious beer and trying a variety of snacks.
It was at this time that I ate their warm lentil salad and was transported into a magical place where lentils are the most delicious thing in the world. So. Good.
But yeah, Berlin is far away. And so I’ve been trying to recreate this experience at home. And I think I’ve gotten pretty close (minus the sprawling beer garden) with the recipe below. The dijon-y/vinegar-y dressing gives this the sourness/tartness I’ve been looking for. For this recipe, I’ve also used inspiration from the warm lentil salad at Community Food & Juice in Morningside Heights. This is where the idea of serving the warm lentils over billowy butter/Boston lettuce comes from (genius), and serving it all with a dollop of creme fraiche (genius-ness, continued). This stuff is so good, so healthy, so affordable – I don’t know why everyone isn’t eating this all the time.
Warm Lentil Salad
1 cup beluga/black lentils
1 bay leaf
Pinch of salt
1 head Boston/butter lettuce
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup EVOO
Salt & pepper
Creme fraiche (or sour cream, or Greek yogurt) to plop on top
Put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water, with about an inch of water over the top. Add a bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil, and then simmer for 30 minutes. Don’t worry too much, as beluga lentils are very difficult to overcook.
While the lentils cook, you can clean your lettuce and gently place it on a plate. I keep the leaves in tact, but you are welcome to tear/chop them into smaller pieces.
Also prepare the dressing by whisking together the garlic, dijon, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify.
When the lentils are done, drain them and add them to a medium-large bowl. Mix in the dressing until adequately coated (to taste). Season to taste.
Add lentils on top of lettuce. Add dollop of creme fraiche. Enjoy!